What Phase One of DC Reopening Means for You

From bars to barbershops, here are the services that can — and can’t — return

May 29, 2020 1:43 pm
Dacha is a beer garden in Washington DC
Dacha will reopen its patio to customers in a limited capacity
Getty Images

Friday morning, DC will begin Phase One of the reopening process after hitting an encouraging key benchmark in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: a 14-day decline in local spread of the virus.

A spike in cases last weekend raised doubts of whether an additional delay to reopening might  be needed, but on Tuesday Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that, for the first time in nearly two months, DC had gone a full 24 hours without registering a death attributed to COVID-19, and by Wednesday the city had hit its two week target of declining cases.

During a briefing this Wednesday, Bowser announced the specifics of Friday’s reopening launch, sending many local businesses into a frenzy over what they will and will not be allowed to provide to patrons. The sudden, official announcement of the city’s gradual reopening has also understably created many questions for residents themselves.

Proceed with caution, of course — despite businesses reopening and case numbers dipping, the coronavirus is far from completely vanquished. The District reported 72 new positive cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 8,406, and Bowser made sure to clarify during her statements on Wednesday that “COVID-19 is still in our community, in our region, in our nation and the public health emergency will continue.”

“As we begin reopening, it cannot be said enough that every single one of us has a role to play in protecting ourselves and each other,” Bowser said. “We have a shared responsibility to stop the spread of the virus.”

So, what exactly does that mean for residents, and how can we keep ourselves safe while beginning to inch towards the normalcy we all so desire? Well, it means that no matter what, you should be wearing a mask when out in public. It means that gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited, and it means that social distancing and working from home are still recommended.

Keeping that all in mind, Phase One, also being called “stay-at-home ‘light’” by the mayor, does include some exciting openings and opportunities to support local business.

What it means for your closet (and your beard)

During her announcement, Bowser has said that certain nonessential businesses, such as retail stores, can begin reopening with curbside or front-door pickup. Essentially, you shouldn’t expect a very casual shopping experience. Customers are still completely prohibited from entering retail storefronts, so if you’re in dire need of some new leisurewear you can call your favorite retailer or order for pick up online, and they’ll have it ready for you to grab and go.

Another call you should probably make: to your favorite barbershop or salon. They’ll be given the opportunity to open up starting Friday with a number of conditions, of course. The only way to get that shave you’ve been waiting for is by making an appointment, and workstations will be placed at least six feet apart, meaning occupancy will be extremely low. Meanwhile, other cosmetic services such as waxing, threading and nail care are still prohibited.

bearded goat barber shop
Photo courtesy of the Bearded Goat
Andrew Noh

What about dinner and happy hour?

As you probably already know, takeout and delivery are still going to be allowed from restaurants and cafes that chose to remain open. The bigger (and more controversial) news is that outdoor dining will now be allowed. 

“Diners may be seated outside, and customers must place their orders and be served while seated,” said Bowser. “All tables must be at least six feet apart, and no more than six people can sit at a table for restaurants that are not currently permitted for outdoor seating.” Bowser announced that they’ll also be launching a process to “re-imagine sidewalks, roads and other spaces for restaurants, retail and recreation,” but the specifics on those plans have not yet been given.

Don’t expect to see communal dining options (such as buffets or salad bars) any time soon, and the use of disposable menus is being highly encouraged. Dining establishments are also being asked by the government to keep customer logs in order to possibly facilitate contact tracing if needed, though this will not be mandatory. 

So, yes, rooftops and beer gardens like Dacha will soon be open. Should you go to them? Well, all we can suggest is to use your better judgment. Patio seating at restaurants such as Chef Geoff’s, Maxwell Park and Centrolina will be opening for business, too, and may provide opportunities for a more spatially distanced dining experience. Outdoor seating will be available outside of cafes and more casual dining establishments, such as South Block Juice Company. The newest guidelines also require at least three prepared food items on the menu, and your table has to order at least one of those items to take advantage of the newly opened outdoor seating. That means establishments that strictly serve booze like bars and nightclubs will remain closed. 

Some restaurants have even taken social distancing requirements to the next level, like Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which has installed 11,000 square feet of plexiglass in their twelve restaurants, using it to separate booths and as bar seat dividers. The Equinox Restaurant is converting their patio and atrium into an “oasis in the city” by building six-foot-tall garden planters in between tables to create separation.

Social activities 

Phase One will also see the reopening of outdoor areas that allow for safely distanced physical activities, like parks, fields, tennis courts, tracks and golf courses. Areas that don’t easily allow for social distancing will remain closed, like playgrounds, public pools and recreation centers like gyms. 


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